Chapter 2

William Clodd appoints himself Managing Director

Mrs. Postwhistle sat on a Windsor-chair in the centre of Rolls Court. Mrs. Postwhistle, who, in the days of her Hebehood, had been likened by admiring frequenters of the old Mitre in Chancery Lane to the ladies, somewhat emaciated, that an English artist, since become famous, was then commencing to popularise, had developed with the passing years, yet still retained a face of placid youthfulness. The two facts, taken in conjunction, had resulted in an asset to her income not to be despised. The wanderer through Rolls Court this summer’s afternoon, presuming him to be familiar with current journalism, would have retired haunted by the sense that the restful-looking lady on the Windsor-chair was someone that he ought to know. Glancing through almost any illustrated paper of the period, the problem would have been solved for him. A photograph of Mrs. Postwhistle, taken quite recently, he would have encountered with this legend: “Before use of Professor Hardtop’s certain cure for corpulency.” Beside it a photograph of Mrs. Postwhistle, then Arabella Higgins, taken twenty years ago, the legend slightly varied: “After use,” etc. The face was the same, the figure—there was no denying it—had undergone decided alteration.

Mrs. Postwhistle had reached with her chair the centre of Rolls Court in course of following the sun. The little shop, over the lintel of which ran: “Timothy Postwhistle, Grocer and Provision Merchant,” she had left behind her in the shadow. Old inhabitants of St. Dunstan-in-the-West retained recollection of a gentlemanly figure, always in a very gorgeous waistcoat, with Dundreary whiskers, to be seen occasionally there behind the counter. All customers it would refer, with the air of a Lord High Chamberlain introducing débutantes, to Mrs. Postwhistle, evidently regarding itself purely as ornamental. For the last ten years, however, no one had noticed it there, and Mrs. Postwhistle had a facility amounting almost to genius for ignoring or misunderstanding questions it was not to her taste to answer. Most things were suspected, nothing known. St. Dunstan-in-the-West had turned to other problems.

“If I wasn’t wanting to see ’im,” remarked to herself Mrs. Postwhistle, who was knitting with one eye upon the shop, “’e’d a been ’ere ’fore I’d ’ad time to clear the dinner things away; certain to ’ave been. It’s a strange world.”

Mrs. Postwhistle was desirous for the arrival of a gentleman not usually awaited with impatience by the ladies of Rolls Court—to wit, one William Clodd, rent-collector, whose day for St. Dunstan-in-the-West was Tuesday.

“At last,” said Mrs. Postwhistle, though without hope that Mr. Clodd, who had just appeared at the other end of the court, could possibly hear her. “Was beginning to be afraid as you’d tumbled over yerself in your ’urry and ’urt yerself.”

Mr. Clodd, perceiving Mrs. Postwhistle, decided to abandon method and take No. 7 first.

Mr. Clodd was a short, thick-set, bullet-headed young man, with ways that were bustling, and eyes that, though kind, suggested trickiness.

“Ah!” said Mr. Clodd admiringly, as he pocketed the six half-crowns that the lady handed up to him. “If only they were all like you, Mrs. Postwhistle!”

“Wouldn’t be no need of chaps like you to worry ’em,” pointed out Mrs. Postwhistle.

“It’s an irony of fate, my being a rent-collector, when you come to think of it,” remarked Mr. Clodd, writing out the receipt. “If I had my way, I’d put an end to landlordism, root and branch. Curse of the country.”

“Just the very thing I wanted to talk to you about,” returned the lady—“that lodger o’ mine.”

“Ah! don’t pay, don’t he? You just hand him over to me. I’ll soon have it out of him.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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